Serendipity on Capitol Hill

+ More

Waiting for lunch with a senator in the lobby of the Senate members' dining room, I had a chance to chat yesterday with Bob Kendrick of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. He was waiting with a delegation, including 94-year-old Buck O'Neill, to lunch with Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri. The museum is seeking to get O'Neill admitted to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and evidently Talent is supportive. O'Neill, I learned from Kendrick, left a very successful career in the Negro Leagues to serve in the military in World War II, just as Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams and many other American and National League players did—except that of course O'Neill served in a segregated black unit. I hope the NLBM's move is successful, like Sen. Jim Inhofe's initiative to see that blacks who served in segregated units were honored in appropriate cases, mostly posthumously alas, with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

My own suggestion: Let's have some computer whiz work up a program that would simulate how the Negro League stars would have performed in, and would have transformed, Major League Baseball if they had been allowed to compete there before MLB was integrated in 1947. Baseball is, after all, a game rich with statistics, and today people fool around with computerized simulations of games in various sports. What would an integrated baseball competition have looked like in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s? Let's give Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams some more competition, with the Negro League greats. And let's open up the Hall of Fame more to those who deserve to be there.